Boyne City income survey critical to fate of future grants

BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, EDITOR

Hoping to clarify an apparent anomaly regarding local income levels, Boyne City will soon be asking an estimated 400 residents to participate in an income study.

Boyne City officials have hired local non-profit organization Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) to conduct the survey to help determine whether the city is eligible to apply for certain infrastructure and program grants in the future.

“It’s important that we have accurate information with regards to the income levels of the residents in Boyne City to make sure that we can apply for and potentially be eligible for grants that are out there,” said Boyne City Manager Michael Cain.

 

He added, “It is important to stress that it is all confidential. Nothing will be tracked back to anybody or released.”

According to Boyne City Assistant Planner Patrick Kilkenny, Boyne City last performed a “Low and Moderate Income Survey” back in 2004.

Municipalities wishing to apply for grants available through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) must have a valid economic survey which shows they are in the low-to-moderate income (LMI) range.

“To qualify for CDBG grant funds, at least 51 percent of the area’s residents must qualify as LMI,” Kilkenny wrote in a Feb. 9 memo to Cain. “[A]nd, for approximately 10 years, the City of Boyne City had been classified as a(n) LMI community by the MEDC, with about 68.09 percent of the city residents being considered LMI.”

According to Kilkenny, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines the term “low and moderate income persons” as families and individuals whose incomes are no more than 80 percent of the median income of the area in question.

Since the U.S. Census no longer tracks income information, the city has had to rely on the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, which claims Boyne City is now considered at 45.74 percent of LMI.

“The new data set does not include justification for the 22.35 percent drop in LMI,” Kilkenny wrote. “However, to be eligible for CDBG grant funding, the City’s LMI percentage is required to be at or above 51 percent. Furthermore, the CDBG program requires that each CDBG funded activity must either principally benefit low and moderate income persons, aid in the prevention or elimination of slums or blight, or meet a community development need having a particular urgency.”

The NLEA is working with Lake Superior State University (LSSU) to conduct the survey, which is expected to cost city taxpayers $10,000.

Letters are expected to be mailed to a random selection of homes this month looking for survey participants.

Then, in April and May, the NLEA will contact respondents by phone and through door-to-door visits which should last approximately 10 minutes each.

As with all of the city’s income studies, any information gathered will be held confidential and anonymous.

Questions or comments should be directed to Patrick Kilkenny by calling (231) 582-6597 or e-mailing pkilkenny@boynecity.com; or to Sara Christensen of the NLEA at 582-6482 or by e-mailing sara@northernlakes.net.

 

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